The bittersweet tone of All’s Well That Ends Well is established by the play’s older characters, especially the Countess of Rossillion and Lafew, both of whom have suffered the loss of loved ones and express their patience with those of the younger generation.The countess sympathizes with Helena’s passion for Bertram, because she was once young and in love herself. Likewise, Lafew forgives Parolles for being a traitor and gives him a second chance by offering him a position. The King of France offers his sympathy to Bertram on the loss of his father, and tells the count he is too young to fight in the war. Ultimately, the happy ending of the play is in the fact that the elders will take no retribution out on the younger generation for the follies to which they have subjected themselves. A counterpoint to this is Lavatch, the aging clown, who talks dirty, impregnates a chambermaid, and then changes his mind about marrying her. He still acts like a child, and his position as a clown—a person no one takes seriously—underscores that fact. Lavatch exhibits the whims of a young person, even though he is old. He serves as an example of the misery that awaits those who fail to live up to their responsibilities as they enter into adulthood. The older generation understands that youth is a time of trial and error, and they remain hopeful that the younger generation—Bertram and Parolles especially—have learned their lessons as their elders continue to take them under their wings and prepare them for the future.
(extracted from) Shakespeare for Students:Critical Interpretations of Shakespeare’s Plays & Poetry, Second Edition, Volume 1, authored by Anne Marie Hacht & Cynthia Burnstein, published by Thomson-Gale, 2007